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Ten years ago the Bar Council, in a report entitled Strategies for the Future, stated boldly: “The clerking system should be restructured to provide arrangements tailored to the requirements of the 1990s.” The report recommended that all chambers with more than 25 members should have a practice manager and clerks should be phased out.A decade later, the Bar has enjoyed 10 years of steady growth and most chambers still have clerks. The clerking system would appear to be alive and well, and the Bar has not suffered as a result.There have been changes. Many chambers have managers, not necessarily with the title ‘practice manager’, but fulfilling many of the roles envisaged for practice managers in Strategies for the Future. Last year’s BDO Stoy Hayward/Bar Council Survey of Barristers’ Chambers showed that 32% of chambers surveyed gave some responsibility for management to someone with the title practice manager, chambers director or a similar title. Most of these were recent appointments. Nearly half of the chambers that had practice managers/chambers directors did not have them four years ago.It is therefore a good time to review the development of management at the Bar, particularly as the next decade may pose even greater challenges than the last. The message that emerges is that successful chambers have depended on strong direction and access to first class management skills. These will be no less important in the years to come.Successful chambers have demonstrated several key qualities, and strong practice management – whether provided by barristers, a senior clerk or a practice manager – has been a feature in each.

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